Navigating Changes in Your Holiday Traditions

“So how was your Thanksgiving?”, a friend at church asked me Sunday morning. She meant it to be pleasant small talk and she really did care. I started my reply with the usual, “Good, thanks for asking”, but before I knew it feelings that I thought were neatly tucked away found their way to my tongue.

“It was good, but two of the girls couldn’t come home, and that’s okay, it’s part of life, I need to put on my big girl pants.” Yep, I talked in a run-on sentence trying to convince myself to be the big-girl mom. But the truth is I missed all my kids at home like crazy.

For our family Thanksgiving is also the launch of the Christmas season. We go to our favorite Christmas tree farm and cut down a tree. We have a tree decorating party. We exchange gift ideas. We eat. We laugh. We drink lots of coffee and eat lots of cookies.

It’s okay to miss the kids and our traditions.  And it’s okay to allow myself to feel the pang. Being a healthy, growing mom doesn’t mean I don’t miss my kids and our traditions. It’s what I do with those feelings that matters.

Our girls and their guys are living the rich lives God has for them. I am thrilled for them. That means that they can’t be home for every holiday. I understand and respect that.

So when I feel the pangs of missing them I do a few things to keep from veering off the healthy path into the ditches of self-pity.

  • First I acknowledge my feelings. It’s healthy to miss loved ones and good times.
  • Be thankful. From the angst of missing my kids I segued into thankfulness for our family, our love for each other, and the fun we have together.
  • Be helpful. We hosted our teen niece and nephew over the weekend since their parents had to be out-of-town. They lit up our house and we loved having them with us.
  • Get busy. I don’t mean crazy-busy-for-the-sake-of-busyness busy. Get to the task at hand. After my niece and nephew went home, I gave myself a little pep talk (learned this trick from Kelsey) and finished decorating for Christmas.

All of this helped get me over the hump and enjoying the present moments again.

I recently read this quote on Instagram—“Life is a constant string of uncontrollable moments.”* Our lives are constantly in motion and changing. To expect things to be as they always have been is unrealistic.

I think it is almost impossible to be ready for the changes as we have no idea what the changes will be. I think the best we can do is to know they are coming and have a mindset to deal with them in a positive, healthy fashion. The mature, godly woman learns to hold everything in life loosely for she never knows what God has next for her and those she holds dear.

Some of you are facing a difficult holiday season due to the loss of a loved one or other significant loss. My heart aches for you. My ideas are not meant to be a glib fix for your deep pain. You may want to consider talking with a counselor or a pastor who can help you navigate this season.

For the rest of us, let us consider how we will respond to the changes in our traditions. Will you—

  • Acknowledge your feelings?
  • Be thankful?
  • Be helpful?
  • Get busy with God’s next thing for you?

I would love to hear how you deal with the “constant string of uncontrollable events” in your Christmas season.



*Kriste Janczyk’s Instagram—rosemary.and.thyme. November 27, 2016.

Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

2 thoughts on “Navigating Changes in Your Holiday Traditions

  1. Good read! Honest words that speak to the hearts of many parents. Both mother and father in many families have to grapple and wrestle with these changes. What you have written here mimics the yearly journey of most parents of grown children. I am sure our own parents felt like emotions. Life as a family takes on a different shape. And that shape changes often. Every now and then family time will resemble what it once use to be. You grab on to those moments and ride them for all they’re worth. Storing up the memories. Savoring time together on a holiday, or on a day that worked out better. Thank you being transparent.

    My heart especially goes out to those parents who have lost a young adult child. Life is forever changed. And they no longer can have a holiday together, nor learn to be satisfied with an alternative date. That would be the much harder things in life.

    For a variety of different situations we all as parents could be one collective support group. We all have changes to adapt to. Consider yourself and what you wrote, the words many of us would write. We understand the journey!

    And thank you for sharing this for the young families. As what they cherish now, will change and shift. Good advice on how to move in and through it!

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